Collected Short Stories of William Faulkner, William Faulkner
Vintage Trade Paper, 1995
The score on LibraryThing is 1,124 reviews for Stephenie Meyer's Twilight to 3 reviews for William Faulkner’s Collected Stories. To add insult to injury, the latter hasn’t had a review since 2007. What a shame—a Nobel Prize winner whom hardly anyone reads. And shame on me for not reading him until my 61st year; I too bought into the myths that "He is too hard to read," "I don't understand him," and "He doesn't make any sense" before I ever tried to read one word.
When I expressed a desire to read something by Faulkner but had no idea where to start, a wonderful woman on LibraryThing readily agreed to mentor me through the labyrinth. After five of his lesser (but hardly forgettable) novels, I turned to these short stories.
I admit that he is difficult at times and I don't understand every line he writes, but reading Faulkner is a moving experience for me, both mentally and emotionally. His stories are to be savored like a pot set to "simmer" on the stove—as opposed to Meyer's read-it-and-forget-it microwavable pop.
This collection includes 42 stories spread over 900 pages, many of them forerunners to future novels. Every one of them sucked me in from the first sentence, and I wasn't able to close the book until I had finished the story. Some stories had neatly tied-up endings, but many did not—a frequent Faulkner device that requires the reader to create or imagine the ending. I suspect it is the latter that frustrates people: unwilling to use their imaginations, they ask, “What the hell was that all about?”
Many of these stories take place in fictional Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi. But Faulkner was a master of the war story too, and the effect war has on an individual—both soldier and civilian. I liked these best. My favorite is "Two Soldiers," a poignant tale (and title) of an eight-year-old boy who tries to join the Army and ship out to Pearl Harbor with his beloved older brother. On the flip side is "Victory," a WWI horror story (and title) of a Scotsman who shoots and machine guns his own troops in France—receiving in turn medals for valor because, in war, events happen with lightning speed and few remember exactly what happened.
A complaint I have about the Viking edition is the stories have no dates, so obviously there is no way to tell the order in which Faulkner wrote them.
I recommend this book highly with reservation; if you are brand-new to Faulkner, start with his short novel The Unvanquished. My mentor in northeast Pennsylvania will probably agree.